Aug 202015
 
George Washington, by Sue Lowry

George Washington, by Sue Lowry

The statue of George Washington located at the eastern end of the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, London was a gift to Britain by the State of Virginia.  This oversized bronze statue is a copy of the original marble sculpture by Jean-Antoine Houdon which stands in the Capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

Although originally made in 1914, it finally made it to the UK after the First World War and was unveiled in 1921 by Judith Brewer, the daughter of the then Speaker of the House of Delegates of Virginia.  Washington famously said that he would never set foot on British soil so it is rumoured that American earth was brought over and placed under the statue.  I have no idea if that is true but I do like the tale.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You cansign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Apr 182015
 

8._Installation_view_of_Voss_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

If you love seeing a true, original talent, then swiftly head for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in South Kensington to see their blockbuster exhibition, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.

9._Installation_view_of_Romantic_Naturalism_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

What a revelation this was – entering into the world of a privileged few who knew him, reviewed this designer or wore his clothes. It’s only by seeing the physical products that he produced that you understood what a raw and innovative talent this young Scot had – and what we lost when he left us.

6._Installation_view_of__Cabinet_of_Curiosities_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

The skilful way in which the exhibition has been curated tells his story alongside his clothes – his Savile Row apprenticeship, his association with marques like Givenchy and the establishment of his own eponymous label. It’s easy to see why he was often referred to as the enfant terrible of fashion for his irreverent style and celebration of the gothic and grotesque – yet even in the most outlandish of collections, a beauty and grace shone through together with a surprising depth and grasp of historic knowledge and tradition.

3._Installation_view_of_Romantic_Gothic_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

By walking through his life with this beautifully curated exhibit, I saw the skill and raw talent that he had and how his ideas have permeated every section of our society. The quote “You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition” really sums up this exhibition. You can still buy tickets for this exhibit and I urge you to do so. I came away both enlightened and informed. Just wonderful.

2._Installation_view_of_Savage_Mind_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large) (2)

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, in partnership with Swarovski, supported by American Express and made possible with the co-operation of Alexander McQueen, runs from 14th March – 2nd August 2015 – www.vam.ac.uk/savagebeauty. Follow Victoria and Albert Museum on twitter @V_and_A and on Facebook: Victoria and Albert Museum.

Contributor: Sue Lowry Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Photographs: Reproduced courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

 

Feb 182015
 

London’s longest running exhibition 1

You might think that innovative exhibitions were a modern-day invention but you would be oh so wrong.   The Tower of London is home to the longest running exhibition in the world – an exhibition of armour and armoury used as part Royal propaganda and part fantasy called The Line of Kings.  It’s been running for over 300 years.

London’s longest running exhibition 2

The exhibition was especially important around the time of the restoration of the monarchy and was first put together between 1688 and 1692, seeking to impress and underline the monarch’s right to rule.   Highlights include the wooden horses, many over 325 years old themselves and of course the armours of King Henry VIII, Charles I and King James I.

London’s longest running exhibition 3

The Tower of London is operated by Historic Royal Palaces and unlimited entrance is free to members. Adult entrance is priced at GBP22 and for children aged from 5 – 15, GBP11. There are discounted rates if booked online.

London’s longest running exhibition 4

Follow The Tower of London on Twitter @thetowerlondon and @HRP_palaces. You can also follow Chris Skaife, The Tower of London’s Ravenmaster @ravenmaster1. On Facebook/TowerofLondon.

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Contributor & photographer: Sue Lowry Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Jan 142015
 
Lonodn-Bridge-5

Photo by Sue Lowry

London Bridge Quarter is a vibrant, historical district in the heart of the capital. Traditionally called the “Pool of London”, the area which stretches from London Bridge, beyond Potters Fields Park to just Past Tower Bridge on both sides of the Thames, has undergone somewhat of a transformation over the last few years with the final stages completed by 2018. The current stage finds London Bridge Station undergoing a little facelift, but don’t let the possible disruptions get you down as the underground remains unaffected.

By Sue Lowry

Photo by Sue Lowry

The best way to experience the revitalised London Bridge Quarter is to set up base camp here, before embarking on this 36 hour itinerary.

Saturday

 09.30:  Arrive at London Bridge Underground station and take the two minute walk to London Bridge Hotel. Leave your bags and head straight to Borough Market for brunch before the crowds start to swell.

Photo by Sue Lowry

Photo by Sue Lowry

 11.00: Experience the best view of London, 72 floors up from The View From The Shard.

Photo by Sue Lowry

Photo by Sue Lowry

12.30: See what life at sea was like below decks aboard HMS Belfast.

Photo by Sue Lowry

Photo by Sue Lowry

14.00: Catch a quick matinee at the Unicorn Theatre, famous for its youth theatre, which is now including some grown-ups within the performances as well.

Photo by Sue Lowry

Photo by Sue Lowry

19.00: Dine at Londinium and try out the new comfort menu (available in small and large portions, depending on your appetite!) before sipping a cocktail … or two … at Quarter Bar & Lounge.  Overnight at London Bridge Hotel.

Photo by Sue Lowry

Photo by Sue Lowry

Sunday

 09.30: Breakfast at the hotel and check out (leave your bags with the concierge) before heading to the Design Museum to see ‘Women fashion Power’ until 26th April.

03-Design-Museum-at-night-photographer-Luke-Hayes-Small

Design Museum at night. Photo by Luke Hayes

 12.30: Wrap up warm for a picnic lunch on Potters Fields Park, overlooking Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

Photo by Sue Lowry

Photo by Sue Lowry

14.00: Take a stroll down Bermondsey Street to see a live glassblowing demonstration at London Glassblowing

White Cube Bermondsey. Photo by Ben Westoby

White Cube Bermondsey. Photo by Ben Westoby

16.00: Get free entrance to exhibitions at White Cube Bermondsey, one of Europe’s largest commercial galleries.

19.00: time to head home…

Aug 212014
 

The Shard

The View2

The view 3

The View 4

The View

Here’s some View facts:

  • The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe
  • The View is situated on floors 68, 69 and 72 – the last is open aired
  • The View From The Shard is twice the height of any other viewing platform in London.
  • It costs (at the time of writing) GBP24.95 for a timed entrance for an adult and GBP18.95 for a child.
  • For more information – www.theviewfromtheshard.com / Twitter:  @ShardView

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

 

Jun 132014
 

Next time you are staying with us or Kensington House Hotel, why not pay Kensington Gardens a visit?  There are a wide number of things to do and see within the confines of this 242 acre park, one of eight Royal Parks in the capital.   Bought by William III in 1689 from what was originally part of Hyde Park, he commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to design the redbrick building that is Kensington Palace.  Queen Anne enlarged the Palace Gardens by ‘transferring’ 30 acres from Hyde Park and was responsible for the creation of the Orangery in 1704. It was Queen Caroline, wife of George II, who in 1728 moulded the gardens to their present form by creating the Serpentine and the Long Water from the Westbourne stream. Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace and lived there until she became queen in 1837.

For most of the 18th century the gardens were closed to the public. They were opened gradually but only to the respectably dressed!

Kensington Palace

Originally built for William III and Mary II at the end of the 17th century, Kensington Palace has been a museum, a barracks and a private residence.  It is perhaps best known today as the London home of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  There are a great many rooms to see – the Queen’s and The Kings Apartment’s as well as the room where Queen Victoria was born.  Temporary exhibitions are a constant draw and at present, it’s all about The First Georgians, celebrating 300 years of Hanoverian rule.

These accompanying Palace gardens really enhance the setting of the Palace as well as being a lovely spot to sit and take in the magnificent planting.  The cafe by the way is well priced and a good place to fuel up for further expeditions in the Gardens.  Entrance starts at GBP16.50 for adults or GBP15.40 if booked online.  It is free for Historic Royal Palaces members.

Henry Moore’s Arch

Located at the end of one of the longest uninterrupted avenue vistas in London lies Henry Moore’s glorious Arch, opposite Kensington Palace and overlooking the lake.  It is inspired by life and natural objects (a bone in this case) but evokes comparisons with other monumental structures such as Stonehenge.  This mammoth sculpture, crafted from Travertine marble, was originally created for Kensington Gardens following a major retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery in 1978.  It was restored in 1996 and repositioned in its original site.

Statue of Peter Pan

Commissioned by the author himself – Sir James Barrie – from artist George Frampton RA, the statue appeared overnight on 1st May 1912 and caused something of a sensation after an announcement made about it in The Times that morning advising “there is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning”.   In the book, The Little White Bird, Peter flies out of his nursery and lands beside the Long Water and this is exactly where the statue is located.

Barrie had apparently met a family – the Llewellyn Davies – in Kensington Gardens and based the Darling Family from the book on them.  Indeed the statue is said to be based on young Michael Llewellyn Davies.

 The Italian Gardens

I didn’t know that The Italian Gardens even existed before I perused the website for Kensington Gardens.  The Italian Gardens are situated on the north side of Kensington Gardens, near Lancaster Gate and are effectively an 150-year-old ornamental water garden. It is said that the gardens were created by a love-sick Prince Albert for his bride Queen Victoria and it consists of four main basins with central rosettes and a stunning white marble Tazza Fountain – all surrounded by intricately carved stone statues and urns.  Located at the head of The Long Water, the river which flows through Kensington Gardens into Hyde Park where it becomes The Serpentine, these gardens were restored in 2011 with help from the Tiffany & Co Foundation of NYC.  They are now protected by English Heritage who have listed them Grade II as a site of particular importance.

The Albert Memorial

The most extravagant, the most recognisable and perhaps the most poignant statue in London for me has to be Queen Victoria’s memorial to her late lamented husband, Prince Albert, opposite the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London in Kensington Gardens.  It commemorates the life and work of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha – a life cut short at just 42 when he died of typhoid fever. He left behind him a grief-stricken widow who would wear her mournful weeds for the rest of her life.

This memorial to her husband took eight years to complete, was designed in the gothic manner by Sir George Gilbert Scott (architect of St Pancras) and involved an army of artists and craftsmen in its complex design.  For some, and it is rumoured The Queen is among them, it is a little too ornate but it certainly helps you keep to your bearings in the park.

Follow The Royal Parks on Twitter @RPFoundation, Facebook/The Royal Parks Foundation – also on Flickr and YouTube

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Jun 042014
 

 

If you only visit one exhibition this year, make sure it’s the Matisse Cut-outs at Tate Modern, opening tomorrow until 7th September 2014.   I predict that the Tate has a major blockbuster on its hands here. Brilliantly curated with a light touch, these masterpieces from the latter end of Matisse’s life emit an unqualified joie de vivre which will appeal to all ages and leave you with a smile on your face. Make sure you take the accompanying headphone tour as there are anecdotes galore which only add to your enjoyment.

Handwritten illustrated books mix with the major pieces, each looking as fresh as the day they were commissioned. It is the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the artist’s paper cut-outs made between 1937 and 1954 and features 130 works, many seen together for the first time. When ill health prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors and in a very simplistic explanation, a new art form was born.  His will to continue creating works of art must have been extraordinary strong – I am in awe of his genius and I am sure I will return again to see this incredible exhibition.

Henri Matisse:  The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern is open from 17th April – 7th September 2014.  Tickets (with donation) are GBP18.  For a quieter viewing, book the Sunday evenings where visitors are restricted from 20.00 – 22.30.  Can’t get to London but you live in the UK or Eire, then from 3rd June, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs Live will be shown live at selected cinemas.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

 

 

 

 

 

May 142014
 

 

The most extravagant, the most recognisable and perhaps the most poignant statue in London for me has to be Queen Victoria’s memorial to her late lamented husband, Prince Albert, opposite the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London in Kensington Gardens.  It commemorates the life and work of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha – a life cut short at just 42 when he died of typhoid fever.

He left behind him a grief-stricken widow who would wear her mournful weeds for the rest of her life.  This memorial to her husband took eight years to complete, was designed in the gothic manner by George Gilbert Scott and involved an army of artists and craftsmen in its complex design.

The iconography of the statutory is slightly confusing but from what I can gather, the main large sculptures on the outer edges symbolise the various continents of the world who exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 which to a large degree, was organised by Prince Albert.  It took place in a temporary Crystal Palace created just a few metres away in Hyde Park.  The groups above the main frieze are symbolic of Agriculture, Manufacture, Commerce and Engineering – the major themes of the Exhibition.

The Parnassus frieze however, which runs around the memorial, depicts those figures that the Victorians considered the greatest figures in Western culture, arranged within the fields of poetry, music, painting, sculpture and architecture. Most of the statues are hewn from Campanella marble but for the figure of Prince Albert (for which 72 tons of cannon barrels were provided by Woolwich Arsenal), gilded bronze was used.

14083194163_c292de6fb6_b

 

The sculptor of Albert himself – or rather sculptors – was firstly Baron Marochetti (who died), then John Foley (who again died before the statue was cast) and finally Thomas Brock who completed the work.  It shows him in his Garter robes, holding a volume of the Great Exhibition catalogue. The actual memorial opened to the general public in 1872 but without the Prince’s statue which was eventually installed three years later.  It was then covered up again  for another year so it could be gilded before being finally unveiled in March 1876.  Scott was knighted for his work on the memorial.

 

The monument incurred slight damage in both World Wars but it was only when a piece of lead fell off in 1983, that a full restoration was commissioned.  The monument, complete with an Albert now covered in 24-carat gold, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October 1998.  Rumour has it, it is a bit too ornate for her taste ….

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company. Images by Sue Lowry

Apr 252014
 

May is a lovely time to be in London as the days are getting longer and the options to be outside, with a greater chance of dry weather, are more plentiful.

REGENT’S PARK

I was inspired by Paul O’Pray, Head Concierge of London Bridge Hotel, who likes to visit Regent’s Park and there are a few good reasons to head there during May.

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre 2014 season opens on 15 May with Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. It’s a 20th century classic with a story of denial, guilt and a confrontation that leads to a shameful family secret.

open-air-theatre

The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park is the only professional, outdoor theatre in Britain. It offers a range of events and performances from May through to September.

On the north side of Regent’s Park is London Zoo where there’s a Silent Cinema from 6 to 10 May. The special five nights starts with ’90s classic Jumanji and concludes with childhood-favourite, The Jungle Book.

London-Zoo-cinema

I’ve always admired the old Lubetkin penguin pool at London Zoo so the new History Tours at the Zoo sound like a really good idea. From April to November, on the last Friday and Saturday of each month, the history tours will look at the beginning of the Zoological Gardens in 1826, how it helped to inspire Charles Darwin, plus the famous listed buildings. London Zoo has some incredible heritage – it’s actually where we get the word ‘zoo’ from as it was the first.

© ZSL - Lubetkin Penguin Pool

© ZSL – Lubetkin Penguin Pool

MUSEUMS AT NIGHT

15 to 17 May is when many museums and cultural venues stay open late for the annual Museums at Night festival. As you would expect, there’s lots going on across London but, again, I took inspiration from Paul O’Pray as he recommended the Old Operating Theatre close to London Bridge Hotel.

On 16 May the Old Operating Theatre is opening for “Night of The Bodysnatcher” so you can hear about the gruesome profession of the Resurrectionists – the men who supplied corpses to the dissecting rooms of London from the graves of the city.

Old Operating Theatre - Image © Sue Lowry

Old Operating Theatre – Image © Sue Lowry

A much less frightful option would be to visit Apsley House on Friday 16 or Saturday 17 May (6-8pm) to explore the resplendent rooms after dark and hear the tales of the house’s fascinating history brought to life. This was the Duke of Wellington’s home and is also known as ‘Number One London’.

QUIRKY ENGLISH FUN

I mentioned the Tweed Run in the ‘Planning Ahead‘ section last month as it’s a fine example of English eccentricity. On 17 May look out for the genteel gentlemen cyclists, along with some fair ladies too, as they take to the streets on bicycles old and new. It’s all about looking the part and “overdressed” is not in their vocabulary!

There’s more English fun the week before on 11 May as it is the 39th Covent Garden May Fayre. You can expect a Grand Procession in the morning and Punch and Judy puppet performances throughout the afternoon.

Another English tradition is a pint at the pub and Pint of Science, on from 19 to 21 May, allows you to combine having a drink with learning something scientific. The talks are cheap (less than the price of a pint) and there are dozens of pubs to choose from as well as topics to select.

Close to the London Bridge Hotel, The Rose Theatre has a sponsored Readathon, on 31 May, of twelve plays by Shakespeare and Marlowe – many of which were performed at this 16th century theatre.

 FURTHER AFIELD

There’s an Art Deco Fair at Eltham Palace, in Greenwich, on 10-11 May, so you can surround yourself with Art Deco decadence and sample the splendour of the thrilling thirties with an abundance of vintage stalls to satisfy the most ardent shopper. If you miss this date there’s another on 13-14 September.

Kenwood House, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, has a Foodies Festival on Friday 30 May to Sunday 1 June (11am-7pm). It will be a celebration of fine food and drink in a beautiful outdoor setting, with plenty of cookery demonstrations, plus kids can learn to cook too in the Children’s Cookery Theatre. I’m looking forward to afternoon tea in the Vintage Tea Tent and taking part in one of the tea dances.

PLANNING AHEAD

Southbank Centre’s annual Meltdown festival has been running since 1993 and each year invites a different cultural figure to act as director of the event and pick the performers of their choosing. This year, DJ, recording artist and record label boss James Lavelle has been asked to direct the 2014 festival – promising 10 days of performances and creative collaborations from 13 to 22 June. Look out for hip hop legend Grandmaster Flash and Scratch Perverts who are playing a one off double-bill.

33

Another annual event starting in June is the City of London Festival on from 22 June to 17 July. The Square Mile celebrates music, dance, art, film, poetry, and family events across iconic venues and outdoor spaces, including Paternoster Square, next to St Paul’s Cathedral, where there will be a giant bowler hat. It’s an inflatable pop-up venue and will host theatre, comedy and circus events.

Also, the Quarter Bar & Lounge, at London Bridge Hotel, is taking part in London Wine Week which runs from 2 to 8 June. Look out for the wine tours.

Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as@AboutLondon and on Facebook as AboutLondonLaura.

Apr 222014
 

 

In the space of just 12 years (it opened in March 2000), The EDF Energy London Eye has become a symbol of London innovation and cities around the world have raced to replicate its success. Taking seven years to create, the Millennium Wheel as it was known when it opened, was designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield, a husband and wife architectural team and at 135 metres, is one of the world’s tallest observation wheels.   It is now the UK’s most popular visitor attraction with over 3.75 million customers a year.

Here are five fast facts about one of my all time favourite London attractions:

  • You can see around 40 kms (25 miles) from the top on a clear day – sometimes even as far as Windsor Castle.
  • There are 800 passengers per revolution, equivalent to 11 London red double decker busses.
  • A rotation takes around 30 minutes.
  • The weight of the wheel and capsules is 2,100 tonnes or as much as 1,272 London black cabs.
  • Kate Moss is the UK celebrity who holds the record for return visits on some 25 occasions with Jessica Alba being the international record holder at 31!

Go on – give it a whirl – I know you want to.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.